2010 Toyota 4Runner
Old school and cool
By Ron Kiino

WE LIKE: Off-road prowess, rugged styling, sliding cargo floor.
WE DON'T LIKE: Bouncy ride, curb weight, where's the V-8?

"Easily the most capable vehicle in this field," says St. Antoine of Toyota's all-new 2010 4Runner Trail Edition. Harwood adds, "It's the only one at this year's competition that makes me want to go off-road." 4Runner Trail proved the most off-road-biased rig in this year's field, what with its body-on-frame construction, 9.6 inches of ground clearance, and live rear axle. And, lest we forget, it boasts Crawl Control for navigating steep 'clines; an available Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System, which, as in the Lexus GX, can disengage the anti-roll bars for increased wheel articulation and travel; and a new Multi-Terrain System that offers preprogrammed off-road settings similar to Land Rover's Terrain Response. In this year's collection, the 4Runner established itself as a mountain goat among lambs, a broad-shouldered, go-anywhere beast that relishes the unbeaten path.

Not that this fifth-generation Toyota didn't enjoy the pavement too. In fact, the 4Runner's commendable on-road behavior surprised us all. Sure, its body-on-frame build and live rear axle translated to a bouncy ride and chassis shivers not associated with today's unibody offerings, but its steering was linear and responsive, its brakes stout and easy to modulate, and its balance was impressive, in light of its nearly six-foot height. With a revised 4.0-liter, 270-horse V-6-a 2.7-liter, 157-horse I-4 is available in SR5 with RWD-it's quick for a 4800-pound vehicle, delivering 0 to 60 in 7.8 seconds. Still, given the 4Runner's 400-pound weight gain, Toyota's new 4.6-liter, 310-horse V-8 would have made a welcome option, especially for towing or carrying a full load.

Speaking of full loads, the new 4Runner can accommodate more than before: 89.7 cubic feet with the rear seats folded versus 75.1; and its available third row, which boasts 5.2 more inches of legroom, now folds flat. Pass on the third row (it's optional only on SR5 and Limited trims), and the 4Runner offers a sliding cargo deck that doubles as a tailgate tray-as the latter, it can support 440 pounds. A nifty feature, for sure, but not enough to push this off-road king ahead of our winner.

2010 Toyota 4Runner
Base price range $27,000-$38,000 (est)
Price as tested $36,000 (est, Trail Edition)
Vehicle layout Front engine, 4WD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV
Engine 4.0L/270-hp/278-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6
Transmission 5-speed automatic
Curb weight (f/r dist) 4762 lb (53/47%)
Wheelbase 109.8 in
Length x width x height 189 x 75.8 x 70.1 in
0-60 mph 7.8 sec
Quarter mile 15.9 sec @ 87.3 mph
Braking, 60-0 mph 138 ft
Lateral acceleration 0.73 g (avg)
MT Figure Eight 29.5 sec @ 0.55 g (avg)
MT observed fuel econ 15.3 mpg
EPA city/hwy fuel econ 17/22 mpg (est)
CO2 emissions 1.02 lb/mile
Engineering ****
Design ****
Interior/Functionality ****
Performance ***
On-road refinement ***
Off-road ability *****
Value ****
Dirt-devouring, rock-crawling, sand-swallower.